Friday, April 30, 2010

My Side Yard

Some things must be shared.  

It was calm and sunny when I took these photos.

The sky was the blue I've only seen here, and the previous day's rain had filled the plants with all the water they wanted.  

Walk out to the side yard with me, why don'cha?

 These are ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens).

For most of the year they are tall, spiky brown sticks.  To the casual observer, they are dead.  But after a bit of rain, surprising things begin to happen.  

Green leaves appear out of nowhere and spires of orange appear at the tips of the suddenly vibrant branches.


  Luckily, some of my plants are still short enough that photographing them was easy. 
Some of the plants in our neighborhood are 15' high.

These flowers deserve a closer look.



They just pop right open, unlike some of the desert flowers which unfurl.



Kind of like New Year's Eve paper-poppers... or little rockets..... or what do they conjure for you?



They are glossy and the pollen is sticky and those pointy thorns to the right under the flower and to the left under the first "true leaf".... well they don't bend when you brush against them.  They pierce leather gloves and welders gloves and even the rattlesnakes don't like fences made of ocotillo branches.

  Anyway..... did you notice anything special about the first picture of the ocotillos?   Up there next to the middle branch?    Would you like a closer look?    
I can't believe this came from my little Nikon L20:




This hummingbird was buzzing my ear all afternoon.
It was nice to have the company.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Speaking Wild Chimpanzee

G'ma and I went to hear Jane Goodall speak this afternoon.  After saying "Hello" in what I can only describe as  "a proper British accent," she said it again in Wild Chimp.  I've never heard anyone converse in Wild Chimp before, and I have to tell you that it sounds like a language I could learn to love... and like a language I could probably learn.  My sense is that grammar wouldn't be a huge part of the curriculum.

Dr. Jane spoke for an hour this afternoon in the lovely outdoor atrium of Pima Community College's Northwest Campus, conveniently located right between G'ma's pod-castle and my house.  And before I wax eloquently about her and her work and her general wonderfulness, let me do the same about PCC and its student body.  Parking was abundant but crowded, yet no one was tailgating or honking or looking peeved.  The signage was ok, but I asked a group of boys (ok, young men.... I'm getting old.....they all look like boys to me....) where the Atrium might be and they were polite and grammatically correct and genuinely glad to tell me that it was "beyond that steel building" and then add, with a big smile and the certainty that the information was golden "after 3 speed bumps."  And they were right; the speed bumps were crucial.  There were credentialed (t-shirts, necklace-badges, big welcoming smiles) helper-bees who greeted us as G'ma "I can walk"  and I crossed to the walkway, and one of them strolled, slowly slowly slowly, with us to the elevator (cleverly disguised with a big clear sign saying ELEVATOR) which took us up the one "no I am not walking up all those stairs"  flight where we were greeted by another smiling worker who showed us the seats set aside for those with disabilities.  Thanking G'ma for being old, I moved two of the folding chairs under the shade of a blooming palo verde tree and we smiled.

The introductions began 10 minutes late but weren't all that long-winded and then, there she was, under the canopy protecting her from the Sonoran sunshine, worrying about those of us out under the blue skies.  Of course she was good with the chimps -- she picked up on the energy of the audience in a nano-second.  She's a beautiful and delightful human being and I wish that I could have gotten close enough to take my own photo of her oh-so-comfortable-with-herself scarf clad person.  But there were a hundred or so school kids on the steps before her, so instead I'll give you a collage of the many umbrellas which were shielding skins from the sun


There's a lot I didn't know about her personal story, and as she shared the histories of JoJo and Satan and her other primate buddies, she told us about herself, as well.  She's received zillions of honors from zillions of institutions which give honors (UNESCO, Kyoto, Ghandi, UN Ambassador of Peace, Dame of the British Empire)  but she reserved her highest honors for her "amazing mother." I liked sitting next to my own mother as Dr. Goodall talked about her mother's encouragement and support and willingness to move to Africa for 4 months so that Jane could fulfill the British government's requirement that she not go into the bush without a companion  For her work with gauze pads and patent medicines, the indigenous people decided that her mom was a white witch doctor.  Personally, I'd say she ranks right up there with best mothers ever. At a time when finances precluded her daughter from attaining a degree, when girls didn't do those things, she had no trouble sending her obsessed child off on an adventure to follow her passion.  I have to believe that she was the one who gave the young Jane her first copy of Tarzan of the Apes.

I learned a lot about chimpanzees, too.  Their DNA differs by 1% from our human DNA; you can get a transfusion from a chimp and live to tell the tale.  They have a sense of self, emotions and family relationships.  They are tool makers (remember when humans were thought to be so special because we were the only ones clever enough for that leap?) and they tell stories and protect their young even when they are old and feeble and absurdly out-matched. 

With the reforestation of range areas spreading out from her compound, Gombe, there are fewer chances of intra-chimp-family-funny-business......that is to say, the opportunities for in-breeding are reduced as different groups are able to meet and mate.  There are water systems and latrines and micro-loans which have grown from Dr. Goodall's work in Tanzania, where destruction of the environment has become a necessity as human populations live without birth control on land which can no longer support their numbers.  She educates women because once they can read they are - surprise, surprise - happier, healthier, more self-sufficient and bearing fewer children. She's contributed to global awareness of our interconnectedness as she travels 300 days a year, repeating this mantra:
Every single one of us makes a difference every single day
That's something I can get myself to think about with a smile.

When I brought the car around to pick her up, G'ma was talking to a Happy Lady who recognized her as my mother, having seen her at luncheons and such with me.  As the security guard directed the traffic around The Schnozz, G'ma buckled her seat belt and, as he stopped the traffic so that we could leave, we drove down the driveway with smiles on our faces.

Life is good.  This is why I moved G'ma to Tucson, after all.  I was looking for a playmate and today she was right there with me, listening to a primatologist speak Wild Chimp as palo verde leaves, 2cm long and light as ... well, as palo verde leaves... landed on our arms as a toddler made not-at-all-random-circles in the space between his brothers and my chair as we listened to a real hero encourage us to stay involved with our poor old battered Mother Earth. 

There are many reasons to love living in Tucson; today was just another one.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring in the Desert

Words.... words.... words.... I'm so sick of words......

Eliza Doolittle echoes my sentiments exactly.  After SB1070 and our 1% sales tax and schools being thwarted by entrenched interests (in our military, the Taliban and Afghan villages) and Board meetings that would not end, I cannot have another serious thought.  I just can't.  
So, instead of considering the sorry state of the outside world, I am, as Pantagruel suggested, tending my own garden.  

Here are the results of a lovely early morning and late afternoon walking around my yard and admiring the work that the creator (need a capital C?  whatever floats your boat... today, I'm not arguing with anyone about anything) and I have achieved.  The commentary is minimal.... I hope your joy is exponential.
*****
Yellow is the predominant color right now.


These damianitas have finally shown their true beauty.
I must give myself some credit for their showy display; I pruned them carefully after their last bloom.  Mini-Marie gave me instructions at Master Gardeners one day, and everything she said was true.  I just snipped off the dead blossoms and left the leggy, woody, ugly branches alone and, as if by magic (but isn't that just the way with gardening?) here they are.

Forgive me for bragging, but they're gorgeous.  Simply gorgeous.  Someone slowed down to look at them while driving by yesterday afternoon.  I love sharing the joy.



This brittle bush is a volunteer; she just arrived last Fall and established herself.
I am eternally grateful to the animal who excreted or brushed off her seeds near the drainage berm.



The Prickly Pear Cacti I showed you earlier this year have bloomed

and the mesquite trees



are just getting started.  In a few days, there will be no greenery on any of their branches.
They will all be covered in those yellow pods.
Let the sneezing commence!

 The lantana



has also joined the party.
 
The barrel cacti blooms are long spent


and their detritus



 have become food for the ground squirrels.  These tunas litter my yard.  The little rodents sit in the shade (of the garbage can waiting to be emptied, of the gate, of the barrel cacti) and munch away happily.  Then, not having been schooled in mannerly behavior, they leave their trash and jump up for more.

Yellow is not the only color that is sprouting from the ground.



The little red cactus garden is beginning to show its stuff.  If they open tomorrow morning I'll add a picture as a bonus post.

 The Staghorn Cholla

 has these soft buds amidst those awful thorns



and those blooms have opened



to that deep red.  I'm fixated on the pollen.  Am I crazy or is that really sexy?

The yuccas' (hesperaloe parviflora) long red shoots have been up since Seret and Mr. DreamyCakes were here in March, but the buds



are starting to open



 and I'm loving their delicate yellow insides.  The hummingbirds and the butterflies and the finches all seem to like perching on their sturdy limbs and drinking.

The birds and the bees, indeed.

Finally, just in case you think that everything in the desert is prickly and pointy and harsh and sharp and ouchy, look at this



It felt as delicate and dewy as it looks.

Oh, frabjous day!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Can't Believe This Is Really Happening

I'm feeling put upon, so forgive me if I use you to whine about the world for a while.  Things are just out of sorts, it seems.

I've been stewing about SB1070 since yesterday, and I'm no more comfortable with it today than I was then.  The lead photo in Monday's Arizona Daily Star has the requisite raised fist

Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic
but I don't see many raised fists here in Tucson.  I'm berating my legislators via email and phone, I'm spreading the word here in The Burrow, I'm feeling outraged.... and yet it all seems small and petty and meaningless.

Why have the campuses not erupted?  Where is the fervor I remember?  Is it really that different 40 years later?  Have kids changed that much? 
*****
I helped G'ma fill out her absentee ballot yesterday.  Arizona has a special election next month. There is only one question: Are you for or against the imposition of a 1% sales tax for the next three years?  

Without it, elementary school teachers will have 40+ students in their classrooms, if they have classrooms at all.  Police, fire, hospital care will all fall by the wayside as the state becomes unable to pay its bills.  It seems like a fairly simple proposition with which any right thinking person could agree, until you read that while these new monies must go to education, health and public safety, there is nothing to prevent our legislators from siphoning money from those same accounts to fund other state priorities.  Kind of like Boris Badenov's "Out with the bad air, in with the good air" refrain from Rocky the Flying Squirrel fame..... "out with the old money, in with the new." 

Poor G'ma -- she could barely keep the permutations in her head.  Finally, laughing hard enough to shake her glasses askew on her nose, she said "At least they're honest about being crooks" and signed her name.

I sighed as I mailed her ballot.  
*****
Road construction bonds are sold years before the work is done.  The planning takes place years before that.  So it was not surprising that in the depths of the recession, AzDOT began a major street resurfacing program.  It was surprising that my entire corner of town was blocked in by these programs.  Tucson doesn't have many sneaky back ways to avoid the main roads and their concomitant traffic delays; our neighborhoods are cul-de-sacs affording no outlets to further your journey.  That makes things flow smoothly, for the most part... except when the main roads exist only in the imagination of the map maker.  
I try to stay off the streets before and after school and during lunch breaks and if it's raining or at 4 o'clock when the construction workers (those few still employed) head for home, but it still takes much too long to get where I'm going.

Relax, you say?  Think of the fabulous surface on which you will soon be privileged to ride?  If only that were true.  But, the finishing touches have been put on nearly the entire length of one of those roads, and there's a seam, a big, annoying, tire-catching seam, an accident waiting to happen seam running beneath my tires.  And the tires of the truck in front of me, the one with the rakes and shovels teetering as they sway, are caught in that seam, too.

I can't believe I waited all Fall and Winter for this.
*****
The second headline in Monday's Arizona Daily Star reads:
UA to teach high school level math in the fall.  
One-third of freshmen found not ready for college courses.
We are not talking about Math 101 here, Dear Readers.  We are not asking that all UofA students prove their competence in a basic, college level math course (whatever that might be).  No, this is high school math we're talking about.   

Are there no admissions standards?  Is there not an expectation that, in order for your application to receive favorable consideration by someone, somewhere, who might be paying attention, that you have passed certain courses?  

Does everyone need to study math in college?  Not really.  I'm just hoping that the students in those high school math classes are not then admitted to the engineering school.  I'd like to think that by the time they got to be freshmen in college, the engineers who build my bridges and design my buildings were able to do the math without remediation.
*****
And to top it off, NBC Nightly News just told me that Afghan school-girls were victims of poison gas attacks in their classrooms in Kunduz Province last week.   How heinous - to want to learn.

A Thousand Splendid Suns should be required reading in every high school in America.
*****
I just can't believe this is all really happening. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

What Happened to The Melting Pot?

I'm a blue girl living in a red state and I'm very confused. 

Apparently, I am not the only one in this predicament.  Nance is wallowing in the same morass, and has offered to guide the winner of her "more names for shades of red" contest through the parts of South Carolina which delight her.  I've always been a fan of re-labeling, but I don't think she's going far enough.  I think we need a whole new paradigm.

I walk the aisles of supermarkets surrounded by people who are all shades of brown.  Some find their color through tanning booths (our newest addiction - I am having fun considering the treatments..... sunburns? long trips to Chicago in the winter?) but most seem to have been born that way.  I am hard pressed to determine ethnic origins as I pass them near the frozen foods; we're all shivering in our tank tops as we retrieve Popsicles and peas and pizzas.  Goose bumps are goose bumps no matter how colorful your skin might be.

We have a large contingent of African refugees here in Tucson, and most of them are what the Little Cuter called purply, a word she coined to describe our Belizean babysitter.




Of course, the Little Cuter thought that her own skin was light brown and we won't even go to the confusion that flesh in the Crayola box created. 

I've got some cousins who are white, but then so was their mother. Their skin is almost translucent, and I don't imagine that they've spent 10 minutes of their lives on a tanning bed. One's married to a German (and there is a whole 'nother definition of what white meant, but we're not going there yet) and the others chose men of Italian and Hispanic descent to father their children.  Their kids are ...... hmmm.....  

And this is where I stop - because what I want to type is American.  But, Arizona seems to be moving in the direction of color-coding our residents as well as our states, so I must pause and reflect. 

Jan Brewer became Arizona's governor when Janet Napolitano took on Homeland Security.  She was our Secretary of State prior to her elevation; Arizona does not elect a Lieutenant Governor and she was the next in line.  Now, Dear Reader, stop for a moment and see if you can conjure up the name of the Secretary of your State...... take your time.... we'll wait.

Still stumped?  Imagine how we felt when our nonentity 

suddenly became our supreme leader.  (As an aside, I vow that I will never again ignore "the bottom of the ticket" in the voting booth.)  She has annoyed and fumbled and stumbled and prayed but she hit a new highlight on Friday when she signed SB1070, which requires Arizona's state and local police to ask about a person's immigration status if there is a "reasonable suspicion" that he or she is in the country illegally. 

Don't you love the wording?  "Reasonable Suspicion" ...... it's almost oxymoronic.  Aren't most police officers naturally suspicious?  Isn't that their job?  If you are suspicious aren't you looking for reasons?  Isn't it the fact that you are suspicious telling you that what you are seeing is unreasonable?  And what might those reasons be?

Speaking with an accent?  Having purply skin?  Listening to Radio Sonora at full volume as you wait at a red light? Reassurances have been given that documentation can be requested only if one is stopped for "something else", but anyone who's watched even half an episode of Law'n knows that "something else" is easily manufactured. 

Suddenly, running out to pick up a gallon of milk requires not only $2 but your passport.

today.ucla.edu
Having relatives who wore yellow stars makes me sensitive to this issue in ways which may surprise you, and which certainly startled many of my Marin friends.  After all, if you're liberal don't you automatically want to open our hearts and our borders to all and sundry, regardless of paperwork?

Had they been able to walk across the Atlantic, I would have had many more cousins than I do now, for certainly America's promise of religious and ethnic freedom would have been an attractive alternative to the death camps.  But there was all that water standing in their way, and there were rules and regulations and quotas and laws precluding them from joining family and friends here in the USofA. So, they died.  I'm big on fairness, and I don't think that walking in unobstructed should allow a person to reap the benefits of our nation's largess.  I think that we need a guest worker program and reasonable immigration standards which allow farm workers as well as high-tech geniuses to join in our great American adventure.  I don't think people can just appear and vote.  I don't think free social services should be served on gilt platters to those who've cheated their way in and then slip on a banana peel.  

But I hearken back to 3rd and 4th grade, where Social Studies was consumed with "the melting pot."  Immigrants of varied backgrounds were shmooshed together and America was the result.  Alexander Hamilton's illegitimate Caribbean birth was cause for derision in the 18th century, but no one doubted that he was an American.  The founders of our country had all come from somewhere else, and the challenge was to take Virginians and New Yorkers and Massachusetts Bay colonists and create a nation of Americans.

This notion was central to my understanding of our country when I was 8, and it remains so today.  I never saw the need for the school district to teach the Big Cuter's California classmates about Hanukah; I brought in dreidles and a menorah and shared the experience with them.  It was my responsibility to describe this particular feather in the plumage of our country; it was the school's responsibility to educate Americans.  Black History Month annoys me, Diversity Assemblies insult me...... we're Americans and that should be that.  Some are tall and some are Methodists and some are purply and the differences are there, but none should be considered more unusual, more unreasonable, more suspicious than another.  If we'd just concentrate on being Americans instead of appending hyphens whenever we notice a distinction, that is.

I think it's because of this kind of thinking that we are, in the 21st century, legalizing questioning based on an officer's "reasonable suspicion" regarding immigration status.  If you are robbing a candy store and you are dark skinned, can I reasonably assume that you are also an illegal entrant to our fair state?  If you are standing at the corner, looking lost, can I reasonably suspect that you have just hiked here from Michoacan and are looking for your safe house?  I can't come up with a palatable suspicion. It's racism that's not even vaguely clouded or hidden.

I've never understood the objections to a National Identity Card.  But concerns exist and the NIC does not.  Instead of hearing "license, registration and NIC" at a traffic stop, we'll be hearing "license, registration and passport."  We'll be erecting barriers between us, requiring only some of our number to carry identification.  Will we be seeing hoodies with sweat-resistant passport holders? 

I don't like feeling sad about my country.  I don't like feeling embarrassed by my state.  But the birthers are trying to amend our election laws to require samples of amniotic fluid before you can run for President of the United State on the Arizona ballot and I don't know..... I'm confused..... depressed..... outraged.....or just plain sad.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bonus Post

The Big Cuter lives on Market Street in San Francisco.  I've written about Market Street, but I've never really thought about it.  I think I will begin to consider it with a different eye, now that I have seen this film.  It was taken by cameras mounted on the fronts of streetcars traveling east toward the Ferry Tower on the Embarcadero in the year 1905 -  just days before the earthquake.

Have a nice weekend!

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Different Kind of Grocery Store

Grocery stores are some of my favorite places on earth.  

There are the mom-and-pop corner markets in New York City, shelves stocked with goods reflecting the ethnicity of the owners.  There are the mega-markets filled with generic and recognizable boxes and cans.  There are the big box stores and the local chains and I love them all.  

I've always liked pushing the cart through the store.  When I was small, Associated Foods had kid-sized carts waiting next to the grown-up carts... waiting there just for me.  I don't remember filling the basket with groceries or emptying it at the checkout counter but I can still remember how the ribbed black rubber felt under my hands as I steered it, very very carefully, up and down the aisles.

Now, G'ma likes to leave her walker in the car and lean on the grocery cart.  It makes her feel mainstreamed, as if she's fitting in with the crowd, just as I did when I was 5.  I try not to dwell on the sad piece.....

There's a reassuring familiarity to grocery stores.  Milk and eggs and bread and meat are around the edges, which makes running in to get the necessities an exercise in tunnel vision if impulse purchases are to be avoided.  Hellmans Mayonnaise is Best Foods Mayonnaise west of the Mississippi (a fact which is true if somewhat bizarre) but for the most part, noodles are noodles and soups are soups.


Unless you enter another world entirely.  And that's what Seret and I did last month.  The sign at LeeLee's Oriental Market preceded the opening of the store by many months; we locals began to wonder if it was a ruse.  There were no grand opening banners nor local radio stations broadcasting from the parking lot but one day I noticed cars parked in front of the doors and deduced that they had actually arrived.  Not being a very adventurous cook, I needed Seret's presence to motivate me to cross the threshold.

It's a big, bright box store with very wide aisles.  There is a Vietnamese restaurant in one corner and take-out Asian BarBQue in another.  A jewelry store occupies the southern corner and a travel agency is right beside it.  I'm not describing storefronts facing the parking lot.  I'm talking about actual independent businesses housed within the confines of LeeLee's Oriental Market.  We weren't in a grocery store.  We were in a neighborhood.

And what a neighborhood it was.  There were no familiar products on the shelves.  Instead we saw

Now, perhaps the squid is a well-loved fellow in the Orient, but here in Tucson it's probably not the brand name designed to cause a cowboy to salivate.  

There were many varieties of eggs, some with little chicks nestled inside the shells.  The stocker wanted to be sure that we understood what he was trying to tell us, which is why he brought over the English-speaking manager to explain the contents.  We were grateful, and we moved on to something somewhat more palatable as well as unusual:
We're still wondering why the yolks are bright orange.

There were aisles of bamboo umbrellas and chopsticks in every hue.  There were brands of paper goods which were new to both of us, and there were delicacies we'd never imagined:



 But my favorite part of the neighborhood were these packages, nestled right up beside one another.  Honestly, I didn't move them to photograph them.

If the couscous can get along together, why can't we?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, a girl planned a trip.  To be more precise, she planned to join a trip created by the Ultimate Trip Planners (UTPs).  Knowing that her only responsibilities were to pack correctly and show up at the WallyWorld parking lot at the appointed time, the months leading up to their departure were filled with obsessing about rolling suitcases vs traveling teams' soccer bags and old hiking poles vs new ones.  Should she take long sleeves or short sleeves and would shorts keep her warm enough if the Gila Wilderness proved to be colder than weather.com predicted?  Which hat - the purple polar fleece or the hand knit beanie with the pompom - would be the most fun to pull out should the need arise?  Did she really need sweat pants and pajama bottoms and stretchy athletic pants or could she truly "pack lightly" as the UTPs requested?  A sweatshirt or another layer of long-sleeves .... decisions, decisions, decisions.

As always, she began laying out the alternatives a few days before her departure.  Her closet floor was a maze of "maybe these" and "perhaps this" stacks and "for sure" piles.  New poles were purchased, as were 2 Camelback water bottles.  The fact that the 1 litre bottles fit in none of the holders on any of her day packs was annoying but not an insurmountable problem; there were 1 liter Smart Water bottles which fit quite nicely and contained the same amount of liquid.  Granted, the UTPs always trek with extra hydration for their hikers, but the girl liked to be self-sufficient.  The bigger Camelbacks fit nicely in her bike's water holder and in The Schnozz's cup holders so there was no waste.  She'd had a wonderful time comparing colors and shapes and brand names at the outfitter's, and that experience alone made her smile when she looked at the "not on this trip, at least" bottles sitting atop the reject pile.

Laundry was done, decisions were made, small cans of tuna fish (for lunches on the trails - she is not a big fan of the processed meats the UTPs were toting for the group) fit into nooks and crannies in the black soccer bag and, 30 hours before she was to depart, her planning and packing was complete.  Those who might have been expecting her at meetings during her travels had been informed that she'd be away.  CT was hired to maintain the rigid watering schedule her container plants required. The pod-castle was aware that she'd be gone, and G'ma was told (though how much she'd remember remained a mystery, even though the trip was scrawled across the relevant dates on all the calendars in her apartment).  She could spend her final day at home putting the finishing touches on her equipment.  The instruction booklet for the GPS slid nicely into a side pocket; Miss Marjorie planned to help her figure the damn thing out.  Carabiners hid in the outside zippered pocket of the soccer bag, ready to be called into use should a strap fail or a clasp crack.  Extra Kashi Bars.... wet wipes.... some more plastic bags....  she became convinced that she was all set.  Let the excitement begin.

Then life intervened.

Finishing up the last of the ground beef, she lit the BBQ and served hamburgers and home made fries for dinner.  After 2 bites, TBG's face turned an all-too-familiar shade of puce.  "How old is this meat?" was his last healthy sentence.  Writhing on the couch turned to puking into the gigantic I-used-to-be-the-6-loaves-of-bread-dough bowl from the side of the bed.  Sleep never happened; gastrointestinal distress continued, hour after hour after hour.  The morning brought no relief, nor did the afternoon nor the early evening.  Sundays are not the day to arrive by car at the Emergency Room, and his symptoms really didn't warrant an ambulance, and the quicker care arrival by siren ensures, and Urgent Care was never a consideration for reasons passing understanding and so he suffered and she served.  She toted.  She rubbed.  She cossetted.  She made jello and found popsicles (red and orange only.... does anyone want 15 purple ones?) and toasted toast and cleaned that damn big bowl all day long.  He was miserable and weak and not getting any better.

And she was supposed to leave for her trip.  She was packed.  She'd invested $16.95 in a map of the area.  She really really wanted to go.

But she couldn't.  Nope, there was no way to leave him at home, all on his own, when food wouldn't stay down and dizziness and exhaustion were the order of the day.  Nope, she had to make the phone call to the UTPs and forfeit her spot on the trip.  How to do that without feeling like a martyr?  He hadn't asked her to stay; he just kept hoping that he'd feel better.  But she knew, having seen this pattern before, that the course of the disease would run on its own timetable, oblivious to any plans she had made.

The UTP's told her to call at 6:30am on the day of departure; she'd been awake with him the entire night so that didn't feel like an early call at all.  The group left and she took TBG to the doctor, where medication was given and blood pressure taken and dehydration addressed and gradually, over the course of the next night, they both fell asleep.

It was a miracle.

He woke up on Tuesday and felt nearly human.  Did she want to try to catch up with her trip? The baggage was still sitting in the dining room, ready to be loaded into The Schnozz.  She had a map and an itinerary.  The B&B owner said that all the keys had been taken, but she was certain that there was a double room with only one traveler in which she could crash.  Then she looked at the map and saw that the 158 miles she'd thought reflected the entire journey was, in fact, only the middle piece.  The group was nearly 300 miles away, in places which have no names.  True: the B&B's location is "the intersection of routes 15 and 35".... there's not even a zip code on the web site.  She decided to stay home and enjoy the free week - no plans, no expectations, it could really be a joy.

She went to pilates but was 15 minutes late (misreading the schedule is never a good thing) and she didn't like the teacher anyway so she turned around and went home.  And that was a very smart decision because..... surprise... surprise...surprise.....

She's spent the better part of the day doing her own writhing-in-agony dance between the bed and the bathroom.  Sparing her Dear Readers the gory details, suffice it to say that this situation would not have been the ideal way to spend a 3 mile hike to the cave dwellings, nor listening to a lecture on the Mimbres culture.  She rarely gets sick, and when she does it lasts about 24 hours.  Sitting here during hour 19, watching the clock and willing the medication to calm her guts or put her to sleep, she types to distract herself.

There will be no pictures of New Mexico on the blog this month.  There will be no stories of tales shared around a communal table.  Silver City, the Cat Walk, Fort Bayard..... they will all have to wait until another time.

For now, the girl needs to sleep.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bakery Run

I rode my bike for the first time in a long time today.  I had books to return to the library and then I planned to head over to the pod-castle and visit with G'ma.  I was prepared - had my helmet and backpack and garage door clicker and cell phone and water bottle - and my new bicycle pump was easy and pouffed those tires up to a nice firm roundness.  I set off in the early afternoon sunshine, a slight breeze at my back, coasting down the hill and smiling.  Crossed at the green, not in-between, and it was only when the road began its ascent that the fact that the  only 2 gears available to me out of the 21 promised by the chains and the cogs on the derailleur and those clickers on the handlebars were impossible and who do you think you're kidding?  

I heard Jillian Michaels screaming at me to finish the hill finish the hill finish the hill and I did.  It took me a while to recover, and while I was resting by the side of the road I thought back to the last time I'd used my bike for a regular errand.
I must have been 11 or 12 or 13 when I began biking to the bakery early on Sunday mornings.  I'd ride past my neighbors, the men outside doing yard work or car work or just bringing in the New York Times and Newsday and, as I passed,  I took orders.  I had a note pad from Woolworth's just like the waitresses at the Rainbow Diner and I gave each customer his carbon copy as a receipt. 

I was working. I was independent.  I was self-sufficient.  I knew at the time that the men were impressed.  Was it patronizing or was it real?  It doesn't matter now.  At that moment in time, I was a wage earner, just as they were.  We were up early, doing the things that that wage earners do.  It might have been their day off, but for me, it was just another workday.  They expected me to come by, and I did.  If they'd missed me the week before they were sorry.  I was a part of their weekly routine.

Getting there was half the fun.  I always took the sneaky way, across the high school field and
across the footbridge and through the marshy area past scary, old Camp Algonquin and then twisting and turning down streets we'd never drive on but which made the perfect, most direct route to Lincoln Shopping Center and the bakery.

Some mornings it was cold and dark and sometimes it was rainy but as I cycled through the neighborhoods, with a purpose and a plan but in no particular hurry at all, I was alone and outside and it felt great.  I feel that when I'm hiking now.

It was nice to be recognized as a regular, to have the 6 poppy seed rolls and a thin sliced rye with seeds go into the bag before I started to place the rest of my order.  Other patrons were amused to see me stagger back to my bike with my spoils, but their smiles never bothered me.  I'd stack the individual bags carefully in my basket and then I'd ride home.

I was useful.  I was responsible to no one but myself and the job I had contracted to do.  I had intersected with the world while most of its inhabitants were still snuggled under their covers, dreaming Sunday morning dreams.

I was pretty special.

And I wonder, now, 40+ years later, where that sense of accomplishment, of being at one with the world, of having nothing on my worry list except deciding which left turn to take.... I've been wondering where it's gone.  When did I become so encumbered that my achievements all seem to have a but attached to their tails?  Everything is so complicated for me now.

On the other hand, no way do I want to time-travel back to that space.  Would you?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Orangutan and the Hound

I'm off on an adventure this week.  The Happy Ladies Hiking Club has struck off for New Mexico and the Gila Wilderness.  We are in vans and SUV's and mini-station-wagons with coolers and hiking poles and sunscreen crowded into every nook and cranny.  There are no stores within a reasonable distance of our destination, and that is a good thing for everything except if you forget something.  We are nothing if not anal about not having everything we need all the time - that's why we are stuffed into these vehicles like circus clowns.

I've prepared posts for you for this week, in case the promised wi-fi at the b&b is less than advertised.  We'll be hiking and touring and laughing and learning but I will not forget you, Dear Readers.  There will be something (pre-packaged or up-to-the-minute) here every morning at 6am Tucson Time all week long.  

I'd never disappoint you!
*****
NatGeo is my favorite cable channel.  The pictures are always pretty, and I can turn off the sound and fold laundry, swiffer floors, cook dinner and prune houseplants with lovely images gracing the big screen in the living room.  I found this clip while perusing their website.  I guarantee that it will make you smile.

Enjoy the love:  Orangutan and the Hound

Monday, April 19, 2010

Climbing Uphill

We hiked up Ventana Canyon, Miss Marjorie and I.

It was hot at 10am when we met where the Blockbuster used to be and it was hotter 20 minutes later at the Trailhead and then we started walking and the breeze decided that she was unnecessary so she left us for, perhaps, your neighborhood.  It was hot and not all that interesting as we walked the trail between private homes and the resort and then we came to the water.

Yes, there is water in the desert.  There is still snow at the peaks of the Santa Catalinas but less than there was last weekend, when they were still skiing.  As the temperatures heat up and the snowpack melts, the water runs down the canyons.  We crossed and criss-crossed and rock hopped and didn't get wet and then we started to climb.  With 1300' of elevation change in a little over a mile of unstable and boulder strewn trail, we were passed by many 20-somethings carrying no water but passing us none-the-less.  Some were running.  

We were not.

As the trail climbed the temperatures dropped and, after a snack break (mmmm... Kashi Trail Mix bars ... naturally delicious ..... and the only bars I actually look forward to eating) we scampered up the rest of the way to the pools.

Okay.  We didn't scamper.  But we didn't whine, either.

Tucson looked pretty good from up there.

with the fairy duster and brittle bush and saguaros at our feet.

And then we got to the pools.  Approaching them was surprising.  One moment it was silent and then suddenly we heard running water.  It wasn't running all that fast, but it was cold and clear and was collected in these deep dark pools:

The green slime is underneath the crystal clear water.
It's thicker where the water is deeper and the rocks are less steep.



I really liked the slime.


 It attached itself to my poles and lasted all the way back to Miss Marjorie's car.  That is serious slime.

Going down reminded me that I had quadriceps and ankles and then there was the heat and the extremely persistent flies when we crossed the streambeds and the total lack of a breeze but there were also students doing plant studies, with their papers and pencils and cameras, and there were little beauties like this

just sitting there, waiting to be admired.


It was a lovely afternoon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Things I've Learned Today

  1. I should review the settings on my email and blogging accounts more often than I do. Outdated email addresses should be changed to useful one).
  2. My email accounts should not forward to one another if they all share the same password. It's better to lose access to part of your life than the entirety of your life.
  3. Security Questions should never be a really important event right now. Trust me, you will not remember when you thought it up, let alone what it was.
  4. I really missed you guys today.   I'll be back on Monday with, no doubt, a post on just what went wrong today).
Have a great weekend.
a/b

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bakery Road Trip

Seret and I went on a Baked Goods Odyssey last month, two friends in search of unusual pastries.  Seret is amazing in many ways, not the least of which is her ability to take one bite of a doughnut and toss the rest in the trash.  I, on the other hand, had no compunctions about downing every last bite of that vegetable-glazed cakey sticky .... well, let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

We'd done a bit of research, on-line and through degrees of separation from native Tucsonans with culinary talents and we had a general plan.  Once we started, though, it became obvious that we were making it up as we went along.  "OOOhhh look at that one" was all I needed to steer The Schnozz into the strip mall (it's all strip malls.... just like Long Island has become..... though I never saw a taco truck on Sunrise Highway.... but I digress...) and park in front of Ghini's Cafe.

Park in front of it.  No worries.  No meters.  My choice of spots, even without invoking my awesome parking karma.  We entered through the bakery


and began to smile.  I mean, seriously, who could resist that face?  We bought a long loaf of interconnected mini-baguettes which I really meant to photograph for you but the smell of warm bread over-powered my senses and the loaf was damaged before the picture could be taken.  Trust me, it was pretty and it was good.

Continuing down Campbell I returned her to Beyond Bread for some ice tea and memories of the lunch we'd shared there a year before.  The free samples were tempting


and the cashier was charming


but we had miles to go before we'd eat.
(sorry about that)

Long ago, talking about kids and nutrition and food in general, Seret, the best cook I know, suggested that I make a conscious decision with every bite I put into my mouth.  It's a good mantra to bring out when my mouth is hungry but my brain and my belly are full.  It's also allowed me to taste things I'd ordinarily shun.  Am I practicing mindful eating?  Is that a thing like mindful speaking.... a meditative technique involving lots more silence than I could deal with? But, yet again, I digress.

We tried to find something interesting in downtown Tucson, but that was, predictably, a failed enterprise.  We parked easily (really, why not when there's nothing there at all) and the Hotel Congress was good for a quick look/see, but the offerings at Maynards weren't that interesting so we headed further south where we found Le Cave's Bakery, right where it was supposed to be.  (Don't laugh, some of the places we tried to find could not be accessed by land nor sea, as far as we could tell.  Ask anyone who's ever tried to follow any of the numbered streets or avenues.  But again, I digress.)


Since 1935, this unassuming warehouse on a corner lot, with a dusty display window and no signage to speak of, this immaculately kept interior contains some of the world's most heavenly smells.  Remember the sticky-gooey-glazed-wonderfulness of the first paragraph?  It's called a vegetable donut and no, it's not broccoli or asparagus or carrot flavored.  Rather, it is completely vegan.  And it has been since 1935.  Why?  Because it tastes good, I guess. 

I made a conscious decision to put every single marvelous bite into my happily awaiting mouth.  I saved Seret's freebie from the trash (I'm telling you, she walks the walk) and made sure that none went to waste.  (I am not even going to the waist space..... ).  It was very mindful munching.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reality Writing

I wrote the first episode of the Burrow exactly one year ago today.

Since then, I have written 329 of these letters to the ether.

329 essays.  329 times when I decided that my thoughts were worth sharing.  329.

That's a decent sized book.

Not that I started out to write a book.... no way, no how, it's just not me.  I'm not a long term project kind of girl; crossword puzzles rather than jigsaw puzzles work for me.  I started because the Cuters, perhaps seeking revenge for my insistence that homework came before going to the park, convinced me that there was an audience out there for my bloviating.

Seriously, when your 20-something children agree that "you are waaaay hipper than you think you are" it's time to sit up and pay attention.  And so I did.  And here I am.  With my 330th post I thank you, blogospherians, for reading and commenting and sharing my life.  

Please notice that I did not say "sharing my journey."  It's important for me to maintain some small degree of separation from the world of reality tv.... for this is, in no small measure, reality writing. 

I've written only the truth, without the embellishments for which my verbal communications are well known.  I've been honest and truthful and, I hope, amusing, provocative and informative.  I've made new friends out there (Hi, Nance!) and felt the love from old friends, who no longer need newsy Holiday letters since they know what I've been doing/thinking/feeling every day for the last year (Hey, FAMMB!).  I've been passed around (Thanks, Artess/--E) to family and friends, I've been quoted (Thanks, Ronni) and I've learned a lot along the way.  

I can now kinda-sorta-just-a-little-but-enough-for-right-now understand the HTML coding behind these beautiful posts.  I'm self taught, at the moment, as the spacing on the pages above demonstrate with aggravating clarity, but I'm working on it.  I'm not afraid to fool with my template, and I've managed to find and download widgets -- and that's a sentence which would not have been typed by me on April 13, 2009.

TBG has commented more than once over this past year that blogging suits me.  He says that it taps into all the things that make me happy - writing, communicating, staying in touch, talking about my day to day stuff, taking pictures and keeping track of where I've been, reading and wondering aloud and making sure that the people I love know the things I think they need to know.

Sometimes I'm an embarrassment of riches, I know.  I tend to instruct, regardless of whether the audience has asked for edification or not.  I usually think that what I want to say is worth a listen, as my Zaydeh was wont to opine.  I imagine that everyone is as interested in my garden and my mother as I am.  And for the last 365 days I've been operating under the assumption that this is all true. 

I'm not totally crazy - the SiteMeter at the bottom of every page reassures me that there are actually people out there clicking through to read my verbiage.  I've yet to earn a dime from the ads; I think they make me look official so there they will stay.  But there has been one thing I've earned -- TBG's respect.  He has been gently teasing me over the years about all the businesses I've started and stopped once I got the stationary designed and the business cards printed -- all on my own computer and my own time, for which I would not charge myself, so we were never out of pocket on any of my absolutely great ideas which never managed to gain any traction after an intial flurry of activity (mostly from my side and never for a very long period of time.)  This time, though, he admits that, while not strictly a business (for that I would have to earn a profit.... a scenario which is, as the citizenry of Anatevka said, far away from us) it is an activity worthy of a place in the pantheon of "what we've done with our lives."  

Thanks for doing it with me.

Happy Blogoversary!




Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Should She Have Gone?

It wasn't a long hike, but we were all tired.  It wasn't a strenuous hike, but we all felt it.  It wasn't hot but we were sweaty, it was windy but the little bugs were still hanging around.... it was a weird day.

Though I've lived in Tucson for 45 months, today was the first time I'd ever taken the tram up to the top of Sabino Canyon.  My friends were shocked...... yes, as shocked as Claude Rains was shocked..... that I had never shared the experience with visitors, that no one had taken me up the paved road 3.7 miles into southwestern heaven, that they had done it 5 times or every Spring and on and on it went.  But this is not a hiking post (I took neither my camera nor my GPS) but a meditation on  getting older.....staying fit.....ageism....the rights of the majority....being kind to one's friends.....and, once again, who decides?
**

There's no one who doesn't like her.  We laugh about her, but we laugh about all of us.  She has secrets, but so do we all.  She's traveled the world and cared for her mother, she plays tennis and goes to church and she always asks about G'ma.  She's a friend.  She's not young, but she doesn't want us to know how old she is, and that's fine (albeit a little bit odd) (but aren't we all?). She's not asthmatic nor arthritic nor vision impaired.  

But is she an intermediate/advanced hiker?

We weren't going to get to Hutch's Pools today, no matter who the participants might be.  It's an all day 10 mile-ish hike and that's more than this group ever attempts.  There were many stopping places along the way, and photos were taken and ahhhh's were sighed.  There were several stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks moments, which was a good thing because she was s-l-o-w.  And careful.  Very very very careful.  She didn't want to fall, and we didn't want her to fall, and when she slid on the loose gravel - a beautiful slow motion fall - all I could think of was we are 2 miles from any cell service .  She was fine, and each of us has fallen or tripped or stumbled or plunked a foot down into the freezing cold 2' deep streambed, but, right then,  we all shared a level of anxiety which was only there for her.

Those of us at the front of the pack were able to rest in all the shady patches.  Even when we weren't tired, we got to rest, because really, how far in front of her could we be without being rude?  

And I began to think about G'ma and the Dining Room at the Old Folks Home (her residence before the pod-castle).  Walking her down to dinner, I asked her if there were people with whom she usually would sit.  She shrugged and said that there had been some women, but once they found out she was Jewish, they didn't want anything to do with her.  Questioning the hostess after G'ma found a table with people who were glad to see her face, I discovered a hidden truth about aging.  It wasn't her religion that had disturbed her tablemates.  It was the fact that she had an aide.  They were too independent to associate with someone who needed help to find the Dining Room.

It wasn't long after that that G'ma moved to the pod-castle, where life is good, and she is one of the active, healthy ones.  But it's really the same issue.  G'ma shares her table with the other residents who are connected to the real world.  She's not looking for more companionship than they are able to give her, so it's the perfect solution for her.  It may not be perfect for me or for you, but that's not her problem.  She's got a smile on her face, and she feels good about herself.

But that need to associate with those who can do what we can do seems to be hard wired.  We wanted to go faster than she could safely hike. The terrain was rocky and steep and she is v-e-r-y careful.  Which is a good thing.  Most of the time.  Perhaps, though, not on this particular hike.  Maybe it was just too difficult for her.  And so we worried.  And we rested.  And we worried some more.

And my not-really-an-intermediate-hiker friend  turned out to be an intermediate hiker after all.  She trod the same path we trod and was no more nor less tired nor cranky than any of the rest of us.  

So, why were we wondering if she should have gone?  It didn't kill her.

She didn't bring up her blister - we did.  She didn't complain about the distance or the change in elevation - we asked her if she was ok.  And she was annoyed when we worried.  And I admired her for it.  She was tired, there's no doubt about it.  I could see it in her eyes.  But she was also quick with her usual witty and snarky retorts.  I was glad she was there.

Because I got to share a real accomplishment today.  Something that was difficult was undertaken and achieved.  Others of our usual group opted for a flat walk through the wash instead of hiking in the Santa Catalinas with us.  I know that they are younger and fitter than she is and yet there she was, the first of the 2nd group of us, daring anyone to tell her that she shouldn't be there with us.  

Waiting for the tram to take us back down the Canyon, she leaned next to me on the railing and showed me why I love having her in my life.  She didn't collapse in a heap.  She didn't kvetch or sigh.  

She looked me in the eye and said "I did it.  I'm proud of myself."   

As well she should be.

Yes, she should've gone.


Monday, April 12, 2010

These Songs Are Our Songs

Arlo Guthrie brought his family to Tucson last Friday, and The Virginians and I went to watch them sing.  Turns out, we got to watch them dance and hug and play the ukelele, too, but that's getting ahead of the tale.

I've spent most of this Spring watching other people's children perform (see posts on NCAA March Madness for proof) and I was ambivalent about devoting yet another night to that particular pursuit.  But Alice's Restaurant provided the soundtrack to my life for a while back in the late 1960's and early 1970's, and Woody Guthrie was there in my childhood and the tour was billed as The Guthrie Family Rides Again so, really, how could I resist?  

G'ma loved folk songs; they were the only tunes she thought she could carry.  There was a lilt in her step when she sang Woody's  This Land is Your Land,and though I can't conjure a specific image I can close my eyes and be there, with her, connecting to her Socialist (well, maybe Communist) parents and their vision for a world where hard work was rewarded... a vision they held onto as they worked two and three jobs at a time, pressing pants and pleats in the basement of the 6-flat that Zaydeh and Gladys' father had built with their own hands, going to work as a paperhanger and a seamstress, watching G'ma go off with her grandpa, carting bottles of "home made wine for religious purposes" on Prohibition Era trains between New Haven and New York.... in America the land of opportunity where hard work really could be rewarded.... just look at their children, college graduates, one a teacher, and their grandchildren, with fancy jobs and titles..... all of that was wrapped up in the song.  

It's nice to have a memory like that.
And it's even nicer when the performers share it.
That was what it felt like on Friday night. 
We'd all heard the same songs in the same way at the same time.
And it felt good.  
Really, really good.

Sarah Lee came out first, with her husband Johnny Irion and Terry A. La Berry (another fabulous name - he's the only one not related to a Guthrie who was on the stage all night).  They played - Abe was at the keyboard - and sang and told a few stories and then Cathy and her ukulele and Annie with her cowgirl hat and her autoharp came on stage and there were a few kids wandering around, appropriating the guitars' mikes for their own vocals, and it was a gentle flow of wonderfulness.

Arlo walked out looking just like he did on the cover of the album which lulled TBG to sleep first semester freshman year (yes, the roommate from hell played it as a bedtime story every night)

His hair is beautifully white and a little bit longer, but the waves and the shine and the perfection of the style on the man is still there. I'm telling you, it was a great night.

There was a distinction made between the tunes and the words.  Woody's archives are being explored by Arlo's sister, Nora (Woody's mom's name.... family means a lot to these folks).  The words are unmistakeably Woody Guthrie, the tunes are all over the map.  Yet there was a coherence, a respect for the vision, a gentle flow to them all.  

At one point there were Guthries playing harmonica, piano, keyboard, ukelele, mandolin, guitars of all descriptions while singing inappropriate lyrics written by Cathy and Amy Nelson..... yes, Willie's daughter.


You really do want to listen.  Probably not at work or in the classroom, though, Cuters.......

Abe's son, Krishna, the oldest grandkid on the stage, played "one of mine", and though the bridge was suspiciously reminiscent of the Allman Brothers' In Memory of Elizabeth Reed



there was also something of the Dust Bowl in it, too. 

City of New Orleans


was the only other oldie they played, and they made it a Chicago memory for me.  Arlo talked about Steve Goodman, the songwriter, a Cubs fan who died too young.  TBG and Oscar's Son and Big Steve and the rest of the gang and I would hear him on Halsted Street, or somewhere on upper Broadway with David Grisman. 

This is my favorite of his songs



It's a road I took every day and one which I never took for granted.  My memory of the big Cuter's birth involves the waters of Lake Michigan covering all the North and half the South bound lanes of The Drive as we sped to the hospital.  My first Chicago bike ride was from rags right up to riches along The Drive.  I answered the sperm and the egg question at the Fullerton Exit on The Drive.  Coming  home on The Drive late one night, Tree ran into a light pole and survived.  Oscar's Son and Dr. K ran the Chicago Marathon on The Drive and they survived, too.  Lake Shore Drive is a big part of most of my Chicago memories.... and somehow I got here from Arlo Guthrie.... oh, yes..... Steve Goodman and The City of New Orleans. 

That's how my night went.  The music was familiar even when it was new to me.  It took me places I was happy to revisit and to spaces that brought a frisson of happiness to my heart.  Looking around the auditorium, it was obvious that the feeling was universal.

The Guthrie Family is also a music conglomerate.  They have their own label, Rising Son, which creates and distributes all things Guthrie.  They are living the good life, on their own terms, surrounded by people they like.  And they are related to those people.  It's the American Dream lived large right before my very eyes. 

Lest you think that this was a remembrance of things past and nothing more, allow me to reassure you -- these people are really good musicians.  Arlo learned from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Pete Seeger and Ramblin' Jack Elliott.  He's an accomplished guitarist and much more than the carrier of his father's torch.  But I don't want to diminish the debt of gratitude I feel to him for keeping this music alive and relevant.  Children's records that don't make you want to jump out of the mini-van are on the horizon and I can see myself sending CD's to grandkids as yet un-born.

Because, after all, it's a family thing.

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